Even though the end of this pandemic isn't exactly in sight, we have one huge advantage going into our 2021 travel plans: knowledge. The hardest part of this 2020 shift into the Twilight Zone was that it caught us all by surprise. We had all taken our ability to travel and see the world for granted, assuming that it would always be there waiting for us. Well, this year gave us some perspective, if nothing else, so that we would now appreciate the freedoms we will hopefully have again soon, even if they might look a little different.
Next year is only a handful of weeks away, and for many of us, we have a lot riding on it. Luckily, Disney is currently offering some very flexible cancellation options which allow you to book your time away with confidence. Travel has always been an incredible source of education for adults and children alike. The general pressures and circumstances we find ourselves in create examples for our kids, in particular, to learn how to deal with stressful situations and problem solving. I've always been a huge believer in learning by doing. And when it comes to travel, you aren't just learning about where you are going and the local culture or traditions, but the act of travel itself.
So, what will travel in 2021 and beyond look like? We don't know exactly where all this is headed, but the lessons traveling has to offer us are more critical now than ever before, and they aren't something commonly acquired in a modern classroom. And no, I'm not talking about saving your coins or respecting different nations and cultures, though those are always important as well.
The first of these lessons is gratitude. The things we enjoy can go away much faster than they were created, which means taking the time to enjoy the moments we have on vacation is super important. Appreciating the small details and those intimate moments of bonding over laughter and shared experience are much more valuable than ticking off the boxes of things you can say you did.
Gone are the days of assuming you will catch something next time or feel entitled to getting more for your money. Instead, we must be grateful that the places we love to visit will be open again at all and support them when they do.
Second on the list is patience. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But truthfully, this is one that we all need a reminder about every now and then. We live in a 'now' society where everything is relatively instant. Even your groceries and holiday gifts can arrive at your doorstep within 24 hours of needing them. Families today aren't pressed with the same challenges they used to be. Sure, we battle social media and the internet at large, but gone are those boring long lines at the bank or trying to suffer through 14-hour flights with no screens in sight to distract.
If there is one thing that a busy airport or long attraction line can teach us, it's that patience is the only way to keep it all together.
Third, planning ahead is vital. Another aspect of travel that has changed forever is the farewell to spontaneity. Those last-minute trips anywhere are no longer achievable, with weeks worth of planning, bookings, and travel requirements to manage. For those going overseas or even interstate, you might be required to quarantine or pass a COVID test within a specific time-frame before departing. New rules are evolving every day, and keeping on top of all the updates is every individual's responsibility.
If you don't usually, now is a great time to work with a travel agent who can be another set of eyes and ears, looking for any information you need to know or might have missed.
Flexibility is fourth in this lineup. Remember when I said new rules are evolving every day? Well, so too is our ability to adapt to them. Overall, we had become quite a rigid society, expecting always to know what was to come in advance. Take Disney, for example. With attraction ride-on videos and every detail scrutinized online, most of us go to Disney knowing precisely what every experience will be like before we even walk in the gates.
The months of 2020 have taught us to be flexible and keep our options open. We have learned that everything may not be as it seems, and on a positive note, we have learned to cope with that and adjust our expectations. Yay us!
Fifth place is a lesson in caution and personal safety. Safety first has never been more valid than it is now, emphasized in the responsibility for each individual to care for themselves. COVID-19 has prepared us to be more aware of the same dangers that have always lurked in the microscopic darkness, reminding us that our flippant disregard for our personal safety will no longer cut it. Travel teaches preparedness, and to have a plan and active follow-through that allow us to experience the things we love while staying safe successfully.
It is easy to wait out this pandemic at home with Netflix and home delivery; what takes that additional planning is caring for yourself and your family outside of the house. Reiterating those personal hygiene routines with kids is extremely important, especially now that there are real, relatable consequences; not just the threat of Mom smelling your hands and finding out you didn't wash them.
Travel isn't over for us; in fact, the idea of having the world as your classroom is still a fantastic way to educate ourselves and each other about the things that really matter. But as we start to make those plans to roam once more, either with short term local trips or far-flung international ones, it's important to remember that a lesson can be learned every step of the way. Involving your family, friends, or children in the process allows them to grow, invites questions, and encourages them to think of solutions.
While you make these plans, try not to look upon those new difficulties as entirely negative. Let them start conversations and create teachable moments, not only in how you get around each obstacle but also in the attitude and approach you take. Even in a year when it might feel futile to attempt planning a vacation, this might be just the time when you need it the most. 2021, 2022, whatever year strikes your fancy, start a notebook, and make some plans. It might be just what you need to believe in a brighter future.
**Feature Image Credit: Michelle Perrin-Crawford